Saturday, January 23, 2010

John J. Valentine 1855 – 1922

The Pennsylvania/New Jersey border defined by the Delaware River

John J. Valentine was born October 21, 1855,  in Mercer County, New Jersey. His parents were recent immigrants from Strasbourg in the Alsace district of France. Louis Valentine and Magdoline (Lena) Droesch Valentine immigrated some time between 1853 when their third child Mary was born in Alsace and the fall of 1855 when John was born in New Jersey.

Mercer County, New Jersey

At the time of John's birth Mary was about 2, brother Louis, Jr. was about 5 and Magdelin the eldest was about 7 years old. Eighteen months after John's birth, Elizabeth arrived. Both John and Elizabeth were born in the township of Lawrence in Mercer County, situated across the Delaware River from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Lawrence was a rural town between Princeton and Trenton, Mercer County's major city. John's obituary gave his birthplace as Trenton.

Sometime between Elizabeth's birth in the spring of 1857 and the mid-1860 census, the Valentines moved a few miles north to Hunterdon County where their last child Catherine was born at the end of 1860.The census found them in the small town of Ringoes in East Amwell Township. An 1844 book on New Jersey described "the village of Ringoes, in a delightful valley [containing] about 20 dwellings."

Ringoes in 1918, about 70 years after the Valentines lived there.

John's obituary mentioned that he had lived in Brooklyn for 67 years in 1922, implying the Valentines moved to New York about 1855, which does not mesh with the census or Catherine's birth information, both indicating they left New Jersey after 1860. The 1870 census lists them in Brooklyn with Louis Sr. working as a house carpenter and the younger Magdelin, Louis Jr. and Mary working as tailors and tailoresses.

Brooklyn in the 1870s

Louis died sometime between that census count and 1872 when the Brooklyn City Directory listed Lena Valentine as a widow, living at 263 Floyd. Five years later Lena was living at 15 George.

We haven't a wedding date for John but Georgi Dorr guesses he married Elizabeth Daly about 1880 or 1881. Elizabeth and John had 5 children between 1882 and 1892, among them our Grandmother Anna Valentine McNally. Georgi writes:

"John had a variety of occupations: he ran a produce store until it folded about 1899, was a watchman in a dry goods store[Abraham & Straus] according to the 1920 census, and a foreman at a stable according to his death certificate."

Turn-of-the-last-century economics were as volatile as those in our time.

The Valentines look prosperous in this photograph of the younger children about 1893. The produce business was probably good in the early 1890s when unemployment was 3% in 1892, but in 1897 when the Panic of 1897 hit, 12 to 14% were out of work. Lewis dropped out of high school to work at Abraham & Straus around 1898 as the recovery began but unemployment was still at 12%.

The Panic of 1897 was almost as bad as the 1933 depression. Causes were a housing bubble, poor banking practices, which led to a freeze on credit and bank failures (long before bank accounts were insured.)

Near the corner of Myrtle and Adelphi in the 1940s from the New York Public Library

Near the corner of Adelphi and Myrtle today.
The lower floors have been turned into store fronts
but the upper stories remain much the same as when the
Valentines lived in the neighborhood.

John died in 1922 at the age of 67. They were residing at 271 Clermont Ave, Brooklyn. Georgi writes: "He died, however, not at his Clermont Ave home where the medical examiner viewed his body, but at a neighborhood store at 331 Myrtle Ave."

A store front at 370 Myrtle today

An obituary from
John J. Valentine, Sr., for twenty-one years employed by Abraham & Straus, Inc., Fulton street, as a night foreman, died suddenly yesterday at his home 271 Clermont avenue. He was born in Trenton, N.J., sixty seven years ago, and had been a resident of Brooklyn for sixty-two years. He was a member of the A&S Benevolent Association and the Holy Name Society attached to the R.C. Church of the Queens All Saints, where a requiem mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. on Thursday. He is survived by a widow, Elizabeth Daley VALENTINE; three sons, Lewis J., a Lieutenant attached to the Eleventh Inspection District, New York Police Department. William M., and John J. Jr., and two daughters, Mrs Anna MCNALLY and Mrs. Elizabeth CURLEY, and twenty-nine grandchildren.

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